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Write-in campaign for Eilers: really?

Park Rapids police chief Terry Eilers has been mentioned as a write-in candidate for Hubbard County Sheriff. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Maybe it's the sign of a cranky electorate.

Or maybe it's something else.

Throughout the corners of Hubbard County and downtown Park Rapids a whispering campaign has begun: "Write in Terry Eilers for Sheriff."

"Yeah, I've heard that before, too," laughed the popular Park Rapids police chief, who's been keeping a low profile throughout the race even though he's been approached by many to jump in or offer advice.

Eilers, the former sheriff of Douglas County, worries about his marital status if he were to accede.

"My wife would hang me," he said, only partially in jest. "I did that for 12 years in Alex and awhile back I did talk about it (running for Hubbard County sheriff) and I just can't do it. If I was a hair younger I might try."

As the race for sheriff between Sgt. Cory Aukes and interim appointee Frank Homer heats up, some voters have expressed concern about the negative tone the race has taken on.

Early Friday morning a large Aukes billboard was defaced on Highway 34 just east of Park Rapids.

"Oh no," Homer said, visibly upset. "You gotta be kidding me."

Homer said the vandalism makes both campaigns look bad and draws natural inferences that his campaign was behind it. He immediately assigned the case for investigation.

"Why now?" Homer questioned. "This hasn't been our style from the beginning and isn't our style now."

The $600 billboard was spray-painted with obscenities.

Eilers said he's worried what the race is doing to departmental employees and the department's image. Aukes has campaigned on a theme of poor departmental morale, which he brought up during his interview for the appointment 18 months ago.

Homer got the appointment from the county board to replace former Sheriff Gary Mills, who took early retirement due to health problems.

The race has become so contentious that an audience member at a recent candidate forum in Helga Township implored the sheriff and county attorney candidates earlier this week to "say one thing nice about your opponent."

An internal law enforcement poll conducted this fall and leaked to the Enterprise indicated a majority of deputies, jailers and dispatchers were backing Aukes, along with the police department.

Homer acknowledged it was difficult to go to work each day knowing he didn't have much internal support, but said it's the nature of an internal struggle for power.

Aukes believes the situation will settle down after the election and that he will still have the support of his fellow employees.

Eilers, if pressed to weigh in, opines the negativity needs to end, pronto.

"There needs to be a lot of (stuff) that needs to be straightened out and I don't know if anyone's going to do it," he said. "No good whatsoever is going to come of it."

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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